21 November 2011 CSP website

A report published today recommends a new independent assessment service (IAS) to provide assessments to individuals once they have been off sick for four weeks should be set up.

Dame Carol Black
photo: Martin Usborne

Report co-author Carol Black (right) said: ‘If implemented these recommendations will ensure many more people with health conditions are able to enjoy the benefit of work; far fewer will needlessly lose work and fall into long-term benefit dependency.’

The IAS proposed in Dame Carol and David Frost’s report has the potential to transform the support offered to those on long-term sick leave, by providing the opportunity for assessments with a suitable clinician such as a physiotherapist, says the CSP.

Many people with long-term health problems could be helped to stay in work, or return to it sooner if they are able to get prompt access to expert advice from a physio or an appropriate occupational health professional, the society said.

‘We hope that the government will accept the recommendations of the review in full to enable this to happen,’ said CSP chief executive Phil Gray.

Funding is ‘essential’

‘However, until now early access to physiotherapy has not been widely available.  If the government really wants to reduce sickness absence, providing the resources and funding so that physiotherapy can be made available at an early stage will be essential.

‘In order to make this a reality the Department of Health and NHS commissioners need to finally make early intervention a major priority.’

The government wants to get 20% of people with long term health problems off benefits.

The government will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the review’s findings and recommendations with the view to publishing a response during 2012, Lord Freud, the minister for welfare reform said.

Edward Davey, minister for employment relations added: ‘Getting the system right is a potential win-win situation so we will be looking at these proposals with interest.’

Self referral

Early access to physiotherapy can cut the time people take off work sick, and save companies and the state money, the CSP told the review body. Self-referral, universal access to occupational health services, and support for employees to remain in work, could all help improve occupational health.